A Disaster of Disguise
I can't escape the dread of dressing up for Halloween
A lot of things scare me:
• People who think E-cigarettes are safe to smoke.
• The lure of smartphones while driving.
• The hatred some people have for others — I'm looking at you, Michael Dunn.
I could go on, but space is limited, and I don't want to scare you away this early in this column.
But at this time of year, one relatively insignificant thing sends shivers down my spine: the thought of having to wear a Halloween costume.
When you're a kid, the choices are endless, but as an adult, you feel the pressure to come up with something clever. I usually consider myself somewhat creative, but choosing a Halloween costume gives me the willies.
I don't remember many costumes from my childhood; most were innocuous princess or witch outfits, although many might not fly at today's politically correct "fall festivals" that have replaced Halloween carnivals at most schools. The only one that really sticks out was from junior high. My friends and I wanted to be "punk rock"; our interpretation was wearing black garbage bags, twisting our hair into dozens of tiny braids, and painting on plenty of black eye makeup.
The last time I dressed in a costume was more than 20 years ago. I attended a friend's party as Bono from the "Rattle and Hum" tour movie: black hat, vest, microphone and an Irish brogue, which did not last the whole evening. A year later, I took on Uma Thurman's character from "Pulp Fiction": an oversized white button-down shirt, black pants, bare feet, a $5 shake and a hypodermic needle. A few years after that, I became Special Agent Dana Scully from "The X-Files": red hair, dark suit, realistic computer-generated FBI badge, fake gun and a nosebleed courtesy of some red lipstick.
That's it: the sum of my costume creativity for the last quarter century.
It's been much more fun dressing my daughter for Halloween: Tigger, a pirate, a neon green skeleton, a ninja princess, Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" and a pink leopard. These were all store-bought costumes (if that's yet another knock on my mom abilities, so be it). She's so agreeable that she has chosen to wear her dance recital costumes for Halloween the last two years — practical and economical decisions at such an early age.
But whenever an adult Halloween event pops up that I might want to attend, the daunting "costumes required" element spooks me. Maybe I don't want to go after all. The thought of showing up at the event sans charade and being ostracized by the costume-clad guests makes me more nauseated than bloody punch with floating eyeballs.
This form of torture parading as "fun" keeps those of us who would like to enjoy a few Halloween thrills and chills from taking part.
What keeps me from dressing up? Why do my ideas dry up? Why do I want to throw up?
Following the advice of many well-meaning self-help books and websites, I've decided to face my fears and force myself to come up with a costume this year. After a bit of brainstorming, here are some of my ideas, based on what's been happening locally in the news. I've tried to make them topical and amusing. Let me know if I succeeded. And, if you need a costume, feel free to steal one of these.
Green Monster: Recent tests show alarming accumulation of algae toxins in parts of the St. Johns River, causing warnings to avoid affected areas. Cut out big patches of green material (felt, AstroTurf, etc.) and attach to dark-colored clothing with safety pins or staples. Extra points for using actual algae — but not if you or your friends end up in the emergency room with skin and eye irritation, nausea, diarrhea or worse.
Matt Shirk: Records of Public Defender Matt Shirk's many text messages with a former employee were recently released but heavily redacted. Carry a shield — he's the public defender, get it? — plastered with pages of blacked-out text message records. Extra points for carrying a bottle of whiskey.
Jaguars: Scrawl "0-7MG!" on a shirt with teal paint or marker.
Art Walk: The 10th anniversary of the First Wednesday Art Walk is coming up Nov. 6. Dip your feet in some non-toxic brightly colored paint and make painted footprints all over some clothing that will contrast well with the paint.
One Spark: You could carry a lit sparkler all night, but you'd have to have a large supply. Or you could staple or safety-pin a bunch of Monopoly money (extra points for real money) all over yourself to become the "world's crowdfunded festival." Paint the money with fiery sparks to help raise more votes for your project — I mean, costume.
High School Name Change: Wear a giant nametag — "Hi! My Name Is …" — with Nathan Bedford Forrest crossed out.
Mathews Bridge: Draw a simple bridge on cardboard, color with maroon red, and cut it out. Tear out a big chunk then attach the drawing to a hat or baseball cap. Wear a shirt that says "Pilot." Then put on a blindfold. Bring a friend to help you navigate — just not a tugboat pilot.
I haven't decided which one to wear, and I'm still open to ideas. Please send me yours.
Maybe I'll see you at a Halloween party. I'll be the one in the costume.